Joy’s Kitchen: Taking a chance on the $26.99 house special

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by Jeremy Iggers | 5/29/09

I had been curious about Joy’s Kitchen ever since it opened a few weeks ago at 34th and Nicollet Ave. S. Through the storefront window, it looked dark and cheerless, but when I found the delivery menu attached to our front door, I decided to give it a try. A few generations ago, chow mein / chop suey houses were common in south Minneapolis neighborhoods, and the only ethnic cuisine known to Minnesotans in the era before GIs returned from World War II with tales of pizza pies. But they seem to be gradually fading away, so it was a bit of a surprise to find a new one.

Iggers Digest is the blog of Jeremy Iggers, the TC Media Alliance’s executive director. Jeremy is also the creator of TCFoodies, a local food networking site.

The menu offers about 140 different dishes, ranging from such Chinese-American classics as chicken chow mein ($3.75 a pint, $6.75 a quart) and sweet and sour chicken ($4.50/$7.75) to kung pao shrimp ($5.25/$8.95) and seafood pan fried noodles ($10.50). But what really caught my eye was the Discount Price House Specials on the back of the menu. Four different combos are featured, but three of them came with cream cheese wontons, and I refuse to eat cream cheese wontons. That left me with just one choice: Combo C, which consisted of:
1 quart sweet and sour chicken
1 quart egg foo young
1 quart shrimp fried rice
1 order rib tips, and
2 spring rolls

all for the amazingly low price of $25.99. I asked to substitute General Tso’s chicken for the sweet and sour, and was informed that that would cost $1 extra. Deal. The guy who took my order told me that delivery would take half an hour, and the food showed up right on time. My arm sagged when the delivery guy handed me the bag – which must have weighed at least 10 pounds.

Soooo, how was it? Not bad, actually. This isn’t the kind of authentic Chinese cuisine fare served at Mandarin Kitchen or Pagoda Dinkytown or Shuang Cheng, but compared to the average Chinese-American takeout, it was actually quite decent. The only disappointment was the spring rolls, which were stuffed with lots of cabbage and not much else. But there were generous quantities of shrimp in the shrimp fried rice and shrimp egg foo young, which was fried to perfection, and came with a classic brown cornstarch gravy. The rib tips, in a candy apple glaze, were a bit dry but meaty and chewy.There was lots of breading on the General Tso’s chicken, but lots of chicken as well, and the breading wasn’t very crisp, but that’s probably inevitable when a deep-dried dish gets packaged for takeout. Best of all, there are enough leftovers to last a week – and I love egg foo young for breakfast.
Joy’s Kitchen, 3400 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-825-1818. Open seven days a week.

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